affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, John de Graaf, David Wann & Thomas H. Naylor)
Simon’s post made me look back on what I can only think about as our previous life. I’m not a proponent of re-birth in any spiritual sense but what has happened to us is a kind of re-birth and writing about it is somewhat humiliating. Our life before children, before moving away from London was out of control. We suffered from Affluenza. I wouldn’t describe us as affluent, but we lived with no sense of limit where money was concerned.
We went on 6 holidays in one year, we bought whatever we wanted, ate out more than in. The debt we amassed was huge. There were months we struggled to make the repayments. Some months we paid the debt with more debt. Once we took out a loan to pay a debt and used part of it to go skiing. While away we ate in great restaurants, bought clothes, drank in swanky bars and stayed in a very nice hotel. All the while our debt was growing.
I guess you could say we got lucky. We had a baby and started to feel the fear. The baby wasn’t the only thing keeping us awake at night. We started to look at our situation and it wasn’t easy viewing. For the first time we added up our debt and the amount it was costing us each month. The figures were staggering. I have no idea to this day how we covered it. With baby 2 on the way we decided to move away from London and this decision was inadvertantly our saving. Our flat (our tiny, one bed, 30 square metre flat) had gone up in value by 400%. This was still crazy time, before the crash, and incredibly someone paid up. We used some of the profit to clear our debt. Too easy? Maybe, but the experience itself was the lesson.
Who or what’s to blame? We could point the finger at our parents. Mine in particular have always been faultless with money. Anything they wanted, they saved for. The very thought of going overdrawn would fill them with horror. I could claim a rebellion! We could blame London. All those shops, making us buy stuff!
The simple truth is that we were living for the moment. Stupidly ignoring the consequences. Not imagining a day when we would have to face it and deal with it. Admittedly we did have some great times and the experience has played more than a small part in our new approach to life. Luckily for us we came out of the old life not just not losing everything but gaining insight along the way. It’s not, however, a route to enlightenment I’d recommend.